Updated: Jul 18, 2020
“All that glitters is not gold. All that glitters in cosmetics is young children sold.”
Look how that brown sheen enhances your eye shape! Wow, you admire that bright red gloss plumping your lips like candy. While you enjoy the beauty products, have you ever wondered where these colours and shine come from? What goes in the process before it comes to you in cute pallets and sticks?
The cosmetic industry is the largest consumer of colours, glitters and shimmers. Chunky glitter of different shapes and sizes are often made from plastic, ending up in the ocean after use. Mica adds colour, a delicate shimmer and reflective shine that is one of the pillars of big brands and commercial makeup in the world. 60% of the high-quality mica that goes into cosmetics comes from India, mostly from the regions of Bihar and Jharkhand, where child mining and worker exploitation is the norm. Most of the mines are illegal and children aged 5 onwards work there every day because their parents cannot afford to school them. The middlemen and world traders buy 1 kilogram of mined mica for about Rs 10 INR but the world market price is around $1,400 USD for 1 kilogram. Being illegal mines, the workers are not paid enough money to sustain themselves, no protective conditions are provided, and no deaths are reported in the fear of losing the only source of income. Narrow tunnels crumble often claiming the lives of innocent young children who are forced into this unfair life-threatening labour.
Will this ever change? Yes, it will when we as consumers make conscious choices regarding our personal care products.
How do we know if products have Mica? Lookout in the ingredients for ‘mica,’ ‘potassium aluminum silicate,’ and ‘CI 77019’. Ask your cosmetic brand what they use to colour their products.
Use products that are made with plant-based colour, and avoid products that have unnecessary purposeless glitter in them. The most ethical choice would be to support sustainable businesses that make products by hand and follow fair-trade practices.
This all may seem so overwhelming, but hey it’s a new learning process every day. We are all in this together to make the world a better place.